Ranger and I went up to his apartment after a light workout where he stepped me through the self-defence moves in slow motion. Ella had already come with our dinner, and the savory aroma of the turkey divan casserole keeping warm in the warming drawer permeated the apartment. Ranger and I washed our hands. Ranger got out the casserole from the oven and poured water for each of us; I got out the salad and dressings, and serving utensils, cutlery and plates. We had eaten together so many times we were like a well-oiled machine, dancing around the kitchen and each other as we served up our meal.
“Tell me about the teenager we’re going after tonight”, said Ranger.
“Alyssa Peyton. She is sixteen and made a habit of trespassing on the property of a crotchety old man. She regularly hid in his garden shed and smoked weed. She didn’t always leave the shed in a neat and tidy condition, often leaving used condoms behind from her various sexual exploits. The crotchety old man left her a note warning her that she would regret it if she continued to trespass on his property. She ignored the note and vandalized his shed in retaliation, dumping old paint and motor oil all over the ground. The old man got mad and spoke to her parents, who said that their daughter was a darling angel who would never do anything wrong. So the old man set an animal trap. He adjusted it so that she would be injured but would not lose her leg, and set it up outside the shed. When she came, in the dark, she stepped on the trap and it shut around her ankle. It shattered her ankle bone and she needed surgery. Her ankle will still be in a cast, so she won’t be a runner.”
“Wow. What happened to the old man?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t say on the police report.”
“If she isn’t a runner, why do you need my help?”
“I’m not sure if I do. Although I do think it will go more smoothly with you there, the main reason I asked for help is just because I want to spend time with you.” I finished the last of my dinner and pushed my dirty plate away with a sigh of pleasure.
Ranger’s eyes darkened as he grabbed hold of my hand and raised it to his lips, kissing my knuckles and then, turning my hand over, kissing the palm of my hand. “I like spending time with you as well.” He pulled me over to his seat, down onto his lap and into a kiss. When our tongues touched I moaned and started frantically reassessing whether I had to pick up Peyton this evening. Ranger’s hand drifted down and… oh, boy. Peyton, who?
“So, before you rudely diverted my attention”, said Ranger with a smile, “you were saying that we have to pick up Alyssa Peyton. Do you still want to go?”
“I diverted your attention? I was solely focused on picking up Peyton until you distracted me.”
“But it was the best sort of distraction imaginable.”
“Yes, it was. I can’t deny it. And I am so relaxed right now the last thing I want to do is go after a skip.”
“Why don’t we go after your skips, then come back here for round two?” He leaned down and kissed me deeply, making me think longingly of forgetting about the skips entirely and heading directly for round two.
“That works for me.” Ranger hauled me off the bed and I walked around the apartment, gathering up clothes that I had frantically discarded as I had made my way into the bedroom. Ranger picked up his clothes and dressed again himself.
“Can we do one of your other skips as well? Don’t you have three altogether that did not sign up for the free alcohol scam?”
“Yes. There was Alyssa Peyton, who we are going after tonight, Nolan Nyetta who Rangeman has been staking out since yesterday and we have not had eyes on him, and Vance Deville. If we could also pick up Vance Deville, that would be great. He also will not be a runner. It is illegal to have explosives go off when you are transporting them, and Vance’s explosives went off. He was injured and it obviously was an accident, but he was charged anyway. He still needs to come into the precinct to rebook. As for Nyetta, I am going to look at his file further this weekend and see if I can shake something loose for ideas on where to look for him.”
“That sounds good. Let me know if you want a second set of eyes reviewing the file.” Ranger finished getting dressed and put his gun back in his holster. “What do you have scheduled for this weekend?”
“I have several files for Sales to do, and I noticed that you are ready for me to research that new account. I have to find Nyetta in addition to the other two that we are going to try to do tonight, I need to see my parents, and I have to do laundry. I probably will take my laundry to my parents to do while I visit with them. I need to clean out Rex’s cage and I should clean my apartment. Lots of little things. What about you?”
“I am working on the new file, reviewing the performance of the new recruits, working on the training program with Tank and doing some bookkeeping and other administrative stuff. Do you want to bring your laundry here and have Ella do it?”
“No, thanks. That’s not fair to Ella. She has enough to do without doing my laundry as well. I would take it to the laundromat, but I have been a little nervous about going to the laundromat after I was drugged a few weeks ago.” Someone that I was researching for Rangeman took exception to the information I found out. He drugged me and tried to kidnap me while I was at the laundromat. It was only the fact that Ranger showed up that foiled the kidnapping. “I know that it’s silly to be anxious about it.”
“I can see why you are. How about we make a laundry date for tomorrow night? We can go to the laundromat together and do your laundry.”
“That is a sucky time for you. I’m sure that doing laundry was not your first choice of things to do on your Saturday night.”
“I don’t mind. Remember, I offered. As long as I am together with you, I am happy just hanging out, doing whatever. Besides, I can answer more of your questions while we are waiting for the wash.” With a smile, he held the apartment door open for me.
“Okay, I will plan on going to my parents for dinner on Sunday. With having my laundry already done, I will be able to avoid spending too much time there.”
“Are your mother and grandmother still on the warpath for trying to get you to settle down with Morelli?”
“My mother would like me to settle down with any number of potential partners. Anyone who will provide grandchildren. My grandmother is a little more understanding and flexible. She just wants me to settle down with someone who is good in bed.”
“I notice you aren’t dressed for the takedown.”
“This is a sixteen-year old girl. She has already paid for the trespassing. She will be in pain every time it rains for the rest of her life. I don’t think she needs to be terrified as well.”
“Yet you wanted me around.”
“You are terrifying, but I didn’t want you for your sharpshooting skills. I wanted you because you’re cute.”
“Cute? I think my testosterone levels just dropped two notches.”
“Cute is a good thing. Would you feel better if I said you are hot?”
“Hot is better than cute.” He held open the Cayenne door for me.
“Then you are sizzling”, I said as he got into the car.
“I guess I could live with sizzling.”
“What would you prefer to be called?”
“I don’t know. Dangerous? Deadly? Dastardly?”
“I don’t know about dastardly, but you are definitely dangerous.”
“For the record, I don’t know about dastardly either. I just like the sound of the word.” Ranger smiled. “If I am just cute, I have to work out in the gym a little more, perhaps shave my head and get a tattoo. Maybe some kill marks under my eye?”
“No, you don’t need the trappings. All you have to do is be focused and talk quietly, and you scare the crap out of everybody.”
“Now that is more like I am talking about. I like the sound of that. Scary Ranger is much better than Cute Ranger. Cute Ranger reminds me of bunnies and puppies.” His distaste was shown so clearly on his face that I started to laugh.
“Don’t worry. You are definitely the manly sort. People don’t look at you and think of puppies and bunnies. Although, Alyssa Peyton will probably look at you and think about having sex with you.”
“Having sex with me!?!”
“Everybody looks at you and thinks about having sex with you. Connie does, Lula does, even my grandmother does. You are just the whole package.” Then, to tease Ranger, I said “because you are cute.”
“Even your grandmother does?”
“Especially my grandmother does. But don’t take it personally. She looks at all men that way. I would worry more if she didn’t look at you and think about sex. She even thinks about sex with Mr. Cooper from the church, and he is about four hundred pounds overweight, is ninety-three years old and has Alzheimer’s. He is so confused I am not even sure if he remembers what sex is.”
“Bad mental picture with that one, Babe.”
“My grandmother and Betty Gringle, her eighty-year old best friend, get together on a regular basis and talk about different men they have seen and try to determine the size of their packages. That’s why my grandmother was so happy to see you come out of the shower when we were in Atlantic City capturing that terrorist. You were on her bucket list, and after she saw you she said she could die happy. She would be very happy to find out that we are starting to date. My mother, not so much. You don’t want kids. But my grandmother? She says that it’s always better to go after bedroom skills because that’s what will make you happy.”
“I was on her bucket list? Now that is scary.”
“Yes. She went through a period where she tried to fill her bucket list. I think she must have filled her list, because she stopped talking about it.” We pulled up outside Alyssa’s house, got out of the car, and walked up to the door. “You are taking lead on this, remember”, I whispered to Ranger as I rang the doorbell.
A middle-aged woman came to the door, wiping her hands dry on a tea towel. “May I help you?” she said, looking briefly at me before focusing on Ranger. She looked him up and down and swallowed audibly.
Ranger introduced himself and me, and explained that we were there to escort her daughter back to the station to be rescheduled. “My daughter was unable to go to court on her date. Her leg was paining her and she was unable to walk.”
“Is she able to walk today?” asked Ranger.
“She’s walking with some difficulty. She’ll need help. I don’t understand why Alyssa is the person who is being treated like a criminal here. She was injured on that man’s property. He should be charged.”
“I am going to leave that up to the police, ma’am. That is outside my jurisdiction. However, what is in my jurisdiction is to bring Alyssa into the station so that she can get rescheduled. Right now, because she did not show up to court, no matter how logical or just the reason, she is considered a wanted fugitive until she gets rescheduled. I am sure you would prefer for us to bring her in from the house here, rather than in front of all her friends at school.”
“Yes, I would. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.” She turned around and walked back into the house and up the stairs, calling for Alyssa as she went.
Ranger and I stood quietly, listening to the sounds of Alyssa crying, saying that it was not fair. Her mother pleading with her, and Alyssa refusing to come down the stairs. After several minutes, Mrs. Peyton came back and said that Alyssa was in too much pain to come down to see us. “Perhaps if you come back tomorrow?”
“May we speak to her?” asked Ranger.
“I…I guess so.” She led us through the house up to Alyssa’s bedroom. We entered the ideal teenage retreat. The room was large with a sleeping and a separate sitting area. Alyssa was sitting on the couch, her foot raised on several cushions. She was playing a video game on the TV, a bag of cheez doodles open beside her, a two-litre pop bottle open on the coffee table. There were clothes all over the floor. We could see through to the ensuite bathroom. There were drawers open, with make-up, a hair straightener and a hair dryer left haphazardly on the counter. Alyssa looked at us and her mouth hung open, half-eaten cheez doodles falling out onto her shirt in an orange powder waterfall.
“I am Ranger, and this is my partner, Stephanie. We are here representing your bail bonds agent. You missed your court date and now you have to go back into the station to get rescheduled. We have come to escort you.”
“You want me to go with you?” she asked, stupefied.
Alyssa’s mother cleared her throat and said “Alyssa, I was just telling Ranger and Stephanie that your leg is much too sore to go into the station right now. Perhaps if they come back tomorrow?”
Ranger glanced at Alyssa and saw the star-struck look in her eyes. “I am sorry, but I am busy tomorrow. This is a one-shot deal. You can either go with me now, or you can wait for Tank to make you come tomorrow. Either way, Tank will not leave here tomorrow without you, even if he has to pick you up in your pyjamas and take you in dressed like that.”
“Who is Tank? Is he as cute as you?”
I tried not to laugh. Ranger looked absolutely pained when Alyssa called him cute. I jumped in. “Tank is one of our associates. He is named Tank because he is built like a tank. He really should have been called Bubba. He will not be as gentle with you as Ranger is.” That is actually a lie. Although Tank is intimidatingly large at 6’6” and built like a tank, his gentleness is shown by his doting adoption of three stray cats.
“All right, I guess I could go in now.” She put her leg down on the ground and, with a lot of grunting and whimpering, got to her feet.
“Do you need to take some pain relievers before you go?” Ranger asked.
“No, I just took some half an hour ago. You need to go ahead of me down the stairs. I take a bit of time.” With lots of pained facial expressions and grunts, Alyssa started down the stairs. She looked at me as I walked ahead of her. “What happened to your leg?” she asked me.
I stopped and turned to the Peytons. “A dog bit me a couple of days ago.”
“That looks like it hurt”, said Alyssa’s mother.
“It did. It still does. However, that is the way it goes sometimes.” I shrugged my shoulders and continued down the stairs, meeting Ranger at the bottom to wait for Alyssa’s long, slow descent.
Alyssa finally made it to the bottom. “You could have carried me”, she said, looking at Ranger. “I wouldn’t have minded.”
“I could have. But it will be good for your body to move around a bit. It’s not good to be so still and, looking at your room, I suspect you have been still for a long time.”
Alyssa stuck her lip out in a pout. Ranger looked at me and I could tell that he was thinking about smiling, then looked back at Alyssa. “Stephanie is going to move the car closer to the house so that you have less distance to walk. I will stay with you while she gets the car.” Ranger handed me the keys. I walked down to the Cayenne and pulled it up into the driveway. Ranger and Mrs. Peyton made slow progress, following Alyssa out of the house.
“Is this really necessary? It wasn’t her fault, you know”, said Mrs. Peyton.
“That isn’t up to me to decide, ma’am. That’s for the courts to decide.” Ranger’s phone buzzed with a text message. Ranger read it, then handed his phone over to me. “We have a problem, Babe.”
I read the message. It was from Eduardo. “Have been doing surveillance since we came on shift. Someone lobbed a Molotov cocktail into the backseat of the car. The car is still smoking. Miguel caught the kid. Would like you to come and question him. We aren’t getting anywhere.”
“We’ll have you drive over to Eduardo to drop me off, then you can drop Alyssa at the station before coming back to pick up the guys and me. By the sounds of it, the car is a write-off.”
“I’m just glad no one was hurt.”
“We have to go, ma’am. An emergency has occurred and I need to be with my staff right now.” He picked up Alyssa and walked her over to the car, depositing her in the backseat. Alyssa looked ecstatic and tried to hang onto his neck after he sat her down. Ranger dodged her groping hands and snapped her in her seatbelt.
I quickly climbed in the passenger seat and handed Ranger the car keys. He sped off to the smoking car on Stark.